Archive for July, 2012

Terry Byrd

Terry Byrd was named Board Member Emeritus by the Clearwater Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, who treated him to a surprise farewell luncheon on July 13 to thank him for his years of service.

Byrd, who serves as Program Director – In Service for the Southeastern Public Safety Institute at the Allstate Center, had been reappointed as Vice Chair of the CHA board every four years since 1995. He originally was appointed by Rita Garvey, former mayor of Clearwater, with the approval of St. Petersburg Junior College.

During his time on the board, he played a role in many of the organization’s accomplishments, some of which include:

  • Assisting in the sale of CHA’s central office to the city of Largo to assist in a pond-park project
  • purchasing and renovating a new central office site with additional room for development
  • Creating the Economies of Scale program to work with other housing agencies in the county
  • Establishing a Financial Management and Compliance Center
  • Making all of CHA’s records digitalized
  • Administering a $10 million Shelter Plus Care program from Housing and Urban Development, which provides transitional housing and supportive services

Byrd, who joined SPJC in 1991, also attended the college and played on the baseketball team from 1967-69.

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The college’s 119th Commencement Exercises take place Saturday, July 21, at 10 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks, 12685 Ulmerton Road, Largo.
Deniann Grant
Deniann Grant

Deniann Grant has pushed herself to achieve as a way to honor the sacrifice her parents made for her education.

When she was 11, her parents moved from Antigua and Barbuda so that Grant and her three siblings would have the opportunity to go to college.

“One of my big motivators is definitely remembering the sacrifices that my parents made to move us to America,” said Grant, 18, who concentrated on English courses at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus. “You think about the things your parents give up—even their retirement funds—to move to a completely different country to start over so that their children can have the opportunities that I’ve had here at SPC. I want to honor that.”

Grant, who receives her Associate in Arts degree, has been chosen as the lower division student speaker for commencement Saturday.

At 16, she graduated from the Criminal Justice Academy at Pinellas Park High School and began taking classes at SPC as a full-time student in fall 2010. Selected as a Johnnie Ruth Clarke scholar, she has been to attend the college tuition-free and has maintained a 3.9 GPA.

In her two years here, Grant served as president of the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus’s Student Government Association in 2011-12 and Chief Executive Officer for the transitional team of MYRA (Make Your Radio Active) Radio Network, the project of the college’s new internet Radio Production Club. As SGA president, she oversaw the funding of the club’s equipment.

“She is the CEO of the club, which we’ve structured like a business,” said Mark Matthews, Lead Instructor of the Music Industry/Recording Arts program who serves as club advisor. When Grant stepped down from her role as SGA president, he recruited her to lead the student radio station because of how well she understood the process of running a club and how it should be organized.

“She’s been incredible,” Matthews said. “She’s responsible for doing the club bylaws and constitutions; she’s been interfacing with the SPC legal department. We have weekly meetings with all the staff of the radio station, and she’s been very efficient and organized.”

“Deniann Grant has helped to define the way faculty, students and staff view student leaders, not only here at St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus but collegewide,” said Tyrone Clinton, Associate Provost at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus. “As president of the Student Government Association, she set high standards for those who will follow in her footsteps. She also has shown her classmates that with dedication and hard work your goals are attainable.”

Grant will transfer to the University of Florida in the fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in English. After graduation, she plans to attend law school and to later return to SPC to serve as a mentor to students.

“I want to continue in my education to not only give back to my family by setting a good example for my younger brothers and cousins, but also to give back to the community as well,” Grant said. “It’s about spreading knowledge and letting everyone know that it’s possible to do the same things that I’ve done at 16 or 18, that anything you want, you can get as long as you are willing to work for it.”

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83degreesmedia.com featured St. Petersburg College’s SAM or Science-Art-Math Camps, specialty summer camps for grades 3-7, in a July 17 article. The camps are part of SPC’s College for Kids program. “The camps are designed to open the eyes of kids that science and math are everywhere,” said Cecilia O’Dowd, coordinator of lifelong learning and the College for Kids program. The article describes the variety of SAM Camp activities, from designing indoor roller coasters to the math behind the baking of cookies.

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Juan Otazu, taken in July 2010 while serving in Continuing Promise, a joint armed forces and multinational humanitarian mission to Latin America and the Caribbean.

St. Petersburg College student Juan Otazu sums up the past decade of his life with three words – passion, persistence and possibilities.

More than 10 years ago, Otazu, 51, started on his path to obtaining a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Those three words describe how, despite a variety of responsibilities and detours including military deployment to Central and South America, he finally finds himself days away from receiving his long-awaited diploma.

Those “three Ps” will be part of the message Otazu plans to share with fellow graduates and others at SPC’s upcoming graduation ceremony. He will be a commencement speaker at the July 21 event.

“You have to believe in yourself and anything is possible,” said Otazu. “If you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, you have to imagine the light.”

“I had to, while on active duty, fit in part-time jobs and education and my active duty commitment,” Otazu said.

Otazu served in the U.S Air Force for 24 years before retiring in 2011 as a master sergeant. Most recently he was deployed for about six months as part of Continuing Promise, a joint armed forces and multinational humanitarian mission to Latin America and the Caribbean. The mission provided medical, dental, veterinary and engineering assistance to several nations, according to military news reports. The deployment fell in the middle of his latest efforts to continue his education in the medical field, delaying his upcoming graduation by more than a year.

Taken during Continuing Promise underway in the Caribbean in 2010.

Otazu began his work toward  a medical degree when he first enrolled at SPC about 11 years ago. But he wasn’t able to continue because the class schedule conflicted with his work on active duty at MacDill Air Force Base. Eventually he was able to attend classes at other institutions to become a licensed practical nurse. By the fall of 2009, he was back at SPC and working toward his bachelor’s degree in nursing. However, the following year he learned he would be deployed to Central and South America in countries including Haiti and Colombia.

Once he returned, Otazu picked up his studies and continued to plug away at his course work. In class, he’s been described as an “informal leader” on projects. Even when he’s been busy juggling work, family and school, Otazu said he always tries to make attending classes enjoyable as part of his commitment to getting his degree.

Although his career in the military held up his progress in school, Otazu also credited his time in the service for helping prepare him for the next phase of his life. Much of his work in the military involved medical-related duties, such as serving as a dental clinic superintendent where he  managed enlisted and civilian staff at MacDill.

Beyond medical experience, Otazu said the military prepared him for a variety of challenges that face people in the workforce, from managing other people and conflict resolution to public speaking. “All of that, it will definitely carry over into your next career once you retire or decide to go into the civilian world,” he said.

Otazu now will become the first person in his family to graduate from college. His younger sister, he said, often asks him how he did it. He hopes his commitment to his school work and career goals help encourage others both older and younger to follow their own dreams. And, once they do that, get a plan and be ready to adjust to cope to whatever surprises come your way.

“I would say you have to create a vision and dream of that vision,” he said.

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Bill McCloud

Willie “Bill” McCloud has been named the 2012 Council for Resource Development Benefactor Award recipient. McCloud, who serves on the SPC Foundation Board of Directors, will be honored for his longstanding service on the boards of the St. Petersburg College Alumni Association and the Gibbs Junior College Alumni Association, and for his participation in initiatives that are important to student success.

The CRD Benefactor Award, which has been given since 1993, recognizes individuals, foundations, or businesses/corporations for outstanding contributions to community colleges. This year, seven donors who embody the ideals of philanthropy, leadership and volunteerism were selected to represent the thousands of individuals, foundations and corporations whose philanthropy benefit community colleges around the nation.

In 2006, McCloud helped establish the Gibbs Junior College Alumni Association Scholarship, which has provided financial assistance to more than 30 SPC students at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus. He created the Willie (Bill) McCloud/Veolia Transportation Scholarship, a five-year, $50,000 pledge that will play an important role in attracting bright students interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math programs.

To receive the award, McCloud will attend the Benefactors Banquet during the 46thAnnual Council for Resource Development Conference “Paradigm Shift: Start a Movement” in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 10.

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Two St. Petersburg College Study Abroad groups recently were able to experience true European soccer pride.

Italy and Spain played against each other on July 1, the same time as both SPC’s Italy high school and Spain groups were studying abroad. The students in Spain celebrated with flags and team jerseys as their team won the UEFA 2012 title.

Later that week, the Italy high school group made their safe return back home.  Most of their time was spent in Rome with a day trip to Florence.  While abroad, the students took advantage of the available technology. Pictures and status updates were posted on the Study Abroad Facebook page and blog, keeping us back home in the loop.

One of the students in Italy expressed her thoughts on St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. “St. Peter’s is a place to learn who you are. No matter who you are and what you believe, there is nothing that can keep your jaw from falling in the presence of Bernini’s famous bronze and mosaics,” wrote Brae Elliott on the SPC Study Abroad blog. “Such a place brings together people from all over the world.”

Upon their return, the Italy group met as a class one last time to present their final project.

“Student after student emphasized how this learning experience went far beyond what they ever expected and will impact them for the rest of their lives,” said lead instructor Alan Hamacher. “As a teacher I am both proud and awed.” Hamacher led the students in Italy with co-instructor John Hesting and chaperone Kelly Rich.

The Study Abroad Program at SPC is a total immersion educational experience where high school and college students travel overseas to locations such as Ireland and Costa Rica, while receiving college credit. Many students describe their study abroad experience as the most meaningful part of their education, impacting their personal growth and enhancing their global perspective.

While the Italy high school group is back home, the Study Abroad program is still in effect in Spain until July 15. Keep up with the students by read the SPC Study Abroad blog.

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SPC officials announced June 26 that they have received two $20,000 matching grants from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, TBNweekly.com reported. That will generate a total of $80,000 for wetlands restoration of about 60 acres north of the Seminole school campus. Jim Waechter, director of facilities services at SPC, said upgrades to the school’s Natural Habitat Park would be done in two phases beginning next fall and into the winter, according to the article. Plans call for replanting of natural species consisting of trees, understory and ground cover.

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The sounds from the Palladium Theater are in the news this week. TBNweekly.com reported on the weekend acts performing at the Palladium that include the Selwyn Birchwood Band, Al Swearingen and Jayne Kelli, and O Som Do Jazz.

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A childhood dream has come true for St. Petersburg College baseball star Bryan LaHair. The Chicago Cubs first baseman has been selected for the National League All-Star roster, which includes some of the biggest names in baseball, the Tampa Bay Times reported this weekend.

The game is Tuesday, July 10, in Kansas City.

“It gives you chills,” LaHair said Sunday in Chicago. “You get a chance to quickly reflect, and I’m sure I’ll reflect more later on, but you think about all the work you put in and the adversity you’ve been through and the different adventures you’ve had along the way to get your first opportunity in the big leagues, and now an All-Star Game is just incredible.”
The report said LaHair was “one of the most unexpected selected.”

He was voted to the National League team by the players as a reserve.

In 2002, LaHair played at SPC. A 39th-round pick by Seattle, he spent most of the next nine years in the minors. He’s getting his first legitimate chance to play regularly this season, according to the article. In the season’s first six weeks, he hit .365 with nine homers and 20 RBIs.

LaHair came to SPC from Clemson and played for the Titans along with current Angels catcher Bobby Wilson. Former Titans baseball coach Dave Pano, now a minor-league coach with the Jays, said in another Times article that 2002 team was “probably the best team I had overall.”

LaHair is the second former SPC player to be named an All-Star. Howard Johnson attended the college and went on to play for the Detroit Tigers, New York Mets, Colorado Rockies and the Chicago Cubs.

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